ALEXANDRIA — As Mayor Ron Richardson prepares to step down from his official duties at the end of the year, Republican Todd Naselroad and Democrat Penny Stevens each are ready to take his place.
Here is a sampling of the issues they believe are on the minds of Alexandria’s residents and their proposals for solutions:
“I just feel like the next four years are going to be very important to the direction of Alexandria and whether it succeeds or whether it fails,” he said. “Let’s all sit on the same side of the table and get things done for Alexandria. Once the election is over, I believe parties should go away, and we should do what’s best for Alexandria.”
Among Naselroad’s priorities if he is elected mayor are creating a comprehensive plan for Indiana 9 and Indiana 28, improving infrastructure and developing more regional relationships with other municipalities.
“We’ve got to grow our tax base, and I kind of feel I’m the best person for that because I know about infrastructure,” he said. “We’re in a great position to grow, I think, if we just make the right moves.”
Naselroad, a city employee who said public service is in his genes, said he believes some officials have gone about economic development backwards by trying to court businesses without making sure a stable workforce is in place.
“Jobs don’t bring people. People bring jobs,” he said. “Everybody I know who wants a job has a job.”
Attracting more people starts with housing, Naselroad said. He would like the city to get to a point that 20 or 30 new homes are built there each year.
“If you wanted to build a home and drove through Alexandria, you’d probably keep on driving,” he said. “I want to raise the quality of life in Alexandria to where people want to move here. Once we get that in place, I think businesses will follow.”
Naselroad said he wants to develop a comprehensive plan to capture the interest of the 10,000 people who drive daily down Indiana 9 and the 6,200 on Indiana 28. Creating more dynamic businesses along those routes would capture more dollars from motorists who could stop to shop and dine along the way, he said.
“I believe if we raise the quality of life and get the businesses on the highway, I think we’ll get the little stores like we have popping up,” he said. “Hopefully, the people who own property there will help me raise the standard.”
Naselroad said he also wants to follow through with plans to study Alexandria’s infrastructure.
“I do want to jump on that. I want to go after grants for streets and sidewalks. A grant is still tax money, but it’s extra. I don’t want to burden Alexandria,” he said. “Right now, I can show you five streets where an elderly person can trip.”
Naselroad said he also wants to develop more regional partnerships with nearby municipalities such as Elwood, Muncie and Tipton.
“We’re kind of in the middle of all those places,” he said. “We need to get together to where we’re not competing so much. Sometimes, what might not work for them might work for us.”
Several elements need to come together to move Alexandria forward, Stevens said.
“It’s never the one thing. It’s like being the coach. You can’t just work on offense. You’ve got to work on defense,” she said.
A member of the Alexandria Community Schools Board of Trustees, Stevens said she already has begun studying the workings of the city’s government by meeting with department heads and Clerk-Treasurer Jill Scott.
From that, Stevens said, she has placed a priority on strengthening communications and marketing, business and residential development, and downtown restoration and beautification.
“I do think we’ve got some momentum,” she said. “We will have to market who we are and why you want to come to Alexandria. We’ve got to get out of Alexandria to tell people what’s here. We can’t be reactive. We need to be proactive.”
To that end, Stevens said she would like to capitalize on the state’s longstanding reputation as the crossroads of America.
“If Indiana is the crossroads of America, Alexandria is the crossroads of Indiana,” she said. “We really, really are in the heart of Indiana.”
The communications and marketing strategy will be an “Open Door” campaign to let residents and others know that her door always is open, literally and through the city’s website. Her plan also includes continuing the “Small Town Summer” initiative started this year to promote the city’s summertime events and completing a yearlong event calendar by the end of January.
“We don’t want somebody else telling our story. We have to tell our story,” she said.
Stevens said she also wants to draw in a larger cross section of residents, including youth, which is why she would like to reinstate a Mayor’s Youth Commission.
“We don’t talk enough to youth,” she said.
Marketing also is central to the city’s economic development initiatives, Stevens said.
“For a small city, we have a lot of businesses, so how do we help market them?” she said.
Part of that will include creating a more attractive downtown, Stevens said. She would like to see more coffee shops and boutiques.
“Those are the things that are working in small town USA these days,” she said. “We have to have a sense of community. That’s what people want in their downtown. They want to be able to ride their bikes. They want to be able to walk their dog and they want to be able to stop somewhere and get a coffee. Again, I feel some momentum there, as well.”
Stevens said she also wants to find a way to support and accelerate the housing starts that are starting to take root.
“I also have spent some time with the people who are building and flipping houses in Alexandria,” she said. “Again, we have some residential momentum, and I love it because it’s all over the city.”